Former Google employees sue the company for alleged sexist practices
Google is staring down a lawsuit from three of its former employees after they sued the company for allegedly being sexist. The three female employees claim that Google discriminates against women “by systematically paying them lower compensation” and funneling them into less lucrative job ladders.
The lawsuit was filed with the San Francisco Superior Court and says that Google has violated the California Equal Pay Act. It claims that Google “has channeled and segregated” women into career paths that just don’t offer the same progression opportunities and pay.
Kelly Ellis – a former Google employee working as a frontend engineer on the Google Photos team – is one of the three named plaintiffs in the case. Ellis revealed that, despite having four years of experience in software engineering, she was offered a compensation level equivalent to what Google offers college graduates. Ellis resigned in 2014 due to the “sexist culture at Google”.
“There is a false and gendered perception at Google that back-end engineering is more technically rigorous, and therefore more prestigious, than front-end software engineering,” the complaint states. “Almost all back-end software engineers were men… Almost all female software engineers, however, were front-end engineers.”
Holly Pease and Kelli Wisuri echo Ellis’ statements with their own experiences. Pease claims that, despite being a corporate network manager responsible for engineering teams, she was never placed on a “technical” ladder that would have improved salary, bonuses, pay rises and company equity. She states that, despite coaching her employees how to pass technical interviews to be placed on the technical ladder, she was denied “a fair opportunity to be paid at the same rate as similar employees”.
Pease resigned in 2016 after returning from medical leave to discover her career had stalled.
Wisuri notes that, in her experience, all the men worked in sales while around 50% of workers in the lower-paid sales enablement roles were women. She left in 2015 “due to the lack of opportunities for advancement for women at Google”.
Google responded to the ongoing lawsuit by issuing a statement to Ars Technica stating that the company has “extensive systems in place to ensure that we pay fairly”.
The Google spokesperson went on to say: “we work really hard to create a great workplace for everyone and to give everyone the chance to thrive here. In relation to this particular lawsuit, we’ll review it in detail, but we disagree with the central allegations. Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions.”
Google, a company seen from the outside as a thoughtful bastion of opportunity, has had a tough year with employees tearing into its workplace culture. Earlier this year former Googler James Damore claimed the company was disproportionately hiring women into tech roles and actively hiring based on race and gender.
Obviously, Damore’s claims are almost the polar opposite of what this ongoing lawsuit suggests, but it goes to show that a company of Google’s size will always be seen through the prism of an employee’s personal experience.